DNA: School Edition (Oberon Modern Plays)

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DNA: School Edition (Oberon Modern Plays)

DNA: School Edition (Oberon Modern Plays)

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Chimps are evil, they murder each other. Did you know that? They kill and torture each other to find a better position within the social structure. You know, being bullies? Within a group? Or if it’s a constant theme of human history. Does that bother you Phil? We get the impression that Mark and Jan might also be younger members of the group/ less able to assert themselves. They look to Phil for reassurance and take instructions from him. (p57) For many years, scientists debated which molecule carried life's biological instructions. Most thought that DNA was too simple a molecule to play such a critical role. Instead, they argued that proteins were more likely to carry out this vital function because of their greater complexity and wider variety of forms. Oh great! Now you're talking to Cathy?! Like, I'm not, I'm not, because you don't like what I say? And now it's Cathy?!

DNA is fundamental to our job. And what it is, it codes for your sort of genetic makeup, such as things like your eye colour and your hair colour, sort of your physical and chemical characteristics. Everyone's DNA is almost unique apart from that of identical twins. Scene 1: Mark and Jan discuss that someone is ‘dead’ and this throws the audience into the middle of the action.

The molecular structure of DNA

Leah is a moral character and tries to reason with many of the characters. She is sensible and able to think for herself and speak her mind. However, she still falls under the leadership of Phil as she is not strong enough to alter the opinions and actions of anyone in the group. Adam is gone, presumed dead. He was last seen teetering on the grille of a deep, disused shaft, a group of bullying teenagers throwing stones at him. They may all be guilty as hell, but they have no intention of getting caught. They have their futures to consider. Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of Phil, an eccentric teenage criminal mastermind who may be a genius or a psychopath, and who comes up with the solution to their little problem that ensures it's the perfect crime.

So, Phil gets Cathy to kill Adam and I've had enough. And I finally stop talking and leave. Which, amazingly prompts Phil to talk to me for the first time. Richard initially looked like a potential leader of the group. His gang mates were scared of him and he challenged John Tate, but he proves himself too weak.' DNA, as a drama, takes the negativity and nihilism of a group of teenagers to a wholly different level to that which has been seen in literature before, eg. Catcher in the Rye. There is virtually no communication with the world outside the friendship group portrayed in the opening scenes. The world of the characters takes very little notice of the rest of society until faced with the consequences of an act of wilful and ‘mindless’ aggression. The aftermath of this act brings the characters closer together and pulls them apart. And when Phil becomes leader, he tries to deflect the blame altogether by blaming an imaginary pervert.' With the police, we're using forensic science to help with their criminal investigations, using things like bloodstain pattern analysis, we're looking at body fluids.These characters act as the ‘chorus’ or narrators. They throw the audience directly into the action at the beginning of each Act and are useful as they fill in any blanks for us. Are we to be like Chimps? Or our closest relatives, the sociable Bonobos? Kelly seems to imply that we can choose to be one or the other.'

Oh yeah he wanted to be part of the gang. I mean everyone wants to be a part of the gang but he wanted it so bad he even ate the leaves. Big fist full of leaves, that’s not even the half of it! It says "The nucleotides forming each DNA strand are connected by noncovalent bonds, called hydrogen bonds." but those are covalent peptide bonds. It should say the bonds holding the two DNA strands together are noncovalent hydrogen bonds. Richard is in need of guidance from a leader. Richard’s way of dealing with the situations that arise is to become sarcastic and to put others down. But as the lies begin to escalate the group goes with it. And allow the man to be framed and it appears to work until.'At the Q&A session following the performance, writer Dennis Kelly insisted that he had no specific message in mind when he wrote the play. He recalled that when he was a teenager it would be his friends that he would go to when he was in trouble, rather than a parent or teacher. That was the inspiration behind the story — a group of friends doing whatever it takes to protect each other. The central question is - at what point does the individual cost become too high to maintain group solidarity? Lou will follow whoever the leader is at the time. She is a ‘yes’ woman and will do as she is told. She is controlled by fear (see Act 1 Scene 3). She is afraid of John Tate but also of ‘ Richard, maybe’ (p13). This causes John Tate to panic and ultimately results in John Tate and Richard’s confrontation. Lou (possibly inadvertently) has planted the seed in John Tate’s mind that he is not seen as a leader which results in the struggle for power between him and Richard. Ultimately, their conflict ends with John Tate re-gaining power through threats and fear. This is a dark play but there are lighter moments that lift the mood and stop it becoming too morbid ('I can't get involved in this. I'm going to be a dentist!'). The play has a cyclical feel to it, alternating between woodland scenes in which most of the action takes place and quieter moments with the two protagonists, Leah and Phil, sat side by side in a field. It's the latter scenes that provide most of the comedy, with Leah (played by Leah Brotherhead) awkwardly trying to engage a moody and silent Phil (James Alexandrou) in conversation in a series of rambling, yet endearing, monologues. On the whole these long, repetitive narratives worked well and gave a sense of time passing and life continuing on. Some of the Leah/Phil scenes did drag on a bit, though, and you could sense the attention span of the mostly teenage audience beginning to wane. I found the play a convincing, thought-provoking and unnervingly realistic portrayal of the power of teenage group mentality.



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